Top ten tips for project management

Business these days is simply a succession of projects: launches, relaunches, restructures and repositioning.  Project management is therefore an essential skill, and can make or break a project.  It enables managers to focus on priorities, track performance, overcome difficulties and adapt to change. It gives managers more control and provides proven tools and techniques to help them lead teams to meet objectives on time and within budget.

Whether you are new to Project Management or have been managing the delivery of projects for some time, here are our top ten tips and techniques:

1. No project will succeed without a Terms of Reference

Create a report that will clearly define the background, objectives, key deliverables and outcomes, potential risks, timeline, structure and responsibilities within the project.  This provides the direction and scope of the project and a baseline to control the project from.

2. Create a ‘real’ project plan

A plan is far more than just a schedule and will become the first line of defence for preventing failed projects.  Critical elements would include a quality plan, resource schedule, dependencies, how risks will be managed, cost breakdown, management controls (change, communication, reporting),  and activity schedule.

3. Involve the people who will be doing the work

Project management is as much about managing people and performance as it is about managing activities. During the planning phase, make it a priority to bring together the roles, responsibilities and skills of those involved to gain understanding, commitment and invaluable input.

4. Robust risk management is essential

Risk management focuses on keeping unwanted outcomes to a minimum.  Hold a risk workshop/meeting in the early stages of planning to identify/evaluate and agree suitable actions and response.

5. Be clear on your communications plan

This will define the means and frequency of communication to/from the project team and how all parties interested will be updated.  Keep it short, simple and positive!

6. Keep the plan on track

Putting a plan together will not ensure the project runs smoothly. Create a feedback system to ensure as activities are carried out, checks are made on progress and further action is taken if required. 

7.  Have the right number of reports and routines

Monitoring  performance is crucial for the effective management of projects.  Too many reports slow a project, but too few precede a loss of control. Report on either a timed basis or event basis as milestones are completed. Traffic lights, ie Red, Amber, Green status are a key technique for tracking progress and highlighting problems.

8. Lead an effective team

Ensure clear objectives for all team members and they have a good understanding of what’s going on in the project.  Balance the workload across the team.  Ensure members are appropriately involved in decision making in the project.

9. Hold meetings that move the project along at pace

Meetings play an essential part of everyday managing and guiding the project. Ensure you follow three key meeting disciplines:
Preparation with clear objectives and agenda and the right people to attend
Execution with clear proceedings, summary of purpose, keeping focused on the agenda items and summarising  agreed action points and decisions.
Follow-up with a report of decisions, actions and supporting notes.

10. Make use of lessons learned

Start learning lessons from day one of the project, record them and keep reviewing them.  Collect your own lessons and those of your team. Look for practical things that can be done to stop the same things going wrong and how to look for successes to repeat.  Although this may bear no immediate fruit, it will prove invaluable for future projects and should be viewed as such.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.

These tips have been compiled by Tracey Goold, a change management consultant, and they chime with my own experience in running large scale web projects.  If you have a large project coming up and you feel you need some support, please contact Penmaen Media to find out where we could help.